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'The Walking Dead': Last night's mid-season opening

Rick Grimes on 'The Walking Dead'

Henry Hanks

CNN

Editor's note: This article contains major spoilers for the midseason premiere of "The Walking Dead."

(CNN) -- "The Walking Dead" left us hanging with its midseason finale last year, so we knew to expect surprises when the AMC show returned Sunday.

And oh, were there surprises.

We talked with Danai Gurira -- aka Michonne -- ahead of Sunday's premiere, and she said to watch for a different tone during the remainder of season four as the focus shifted to the journey of individual characters.

She conveniently left out that her character's backstory would be explored in a dream sequence, a scene that easily became one of Sunday's highlights. There was much-needed insight into Michonne, including an apparent explanation on why she became so emotional when holding baby Judith -- she had had a son before (not to mention a lover).

Here are three other moments that still have us talking:

1. Rick's not dead, is he?

Rick was left in a horrid state after a prison attack in the midseason finale, and at first it seemed that he was going to be the first casualty of "The Walking Dead's" return. Our panic grew after a struggling Carl thought his father was a goner when he couldn't wake him up. During the seconds it took for Carl to draw and aim his gun, we wondered the same thing he'd been wondering: Could he survive without his dad? Thankfully, he didn't have to answer that question.

2. Michonne's walker "pets" and a disturbing discovery

In addition to her backstory filling in some of the blanks, Michonne revived something else from the past Sunday: her "pets." As she left the prison, she crafted another set of armless, jawless walkers to accompany her through the desolation -- but not before stumbling upon the decapitated head of Hershel. But Michonne's a soldier: She pushed past the horror of finding Hershel's zombie noggin and had the courage to end his life. Her strength was on display again when she sprang back to life in a herd of walkers, slaying them with her weapon of choice, a katana.

3. Carl becomes a man

Rick, Carl and Michonne were the only three from the original clan in Sunday's episode, which offered an especially intimate view of Carl's struggle. He was angry with his father, Rick, for the desperate state they're now in, so much so he believes he can make it on his own and wouldn't care if his dad were dead. (That's obviously not so true, given his hesitation to shoot him.) Carl did test out his solo survival skills, and although he nearly was turned into a walker, the experience left him unscathed and with a renewed perspective. Carl is becoming a man -- and one who clearly enjoys giant cans of pudding.

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